Amherst man was star on and off football field

AMHERST – Creeley “Buck” Buchanan was never afraid to speak his mind.

The former star football player at the University of New Hampshire, who passed away Friday at age 91, had a habit of calling the coach with advice on upcoming games, his son, Scott, recalled.

“He had an intense desire to beat Dartmouth, and before a Dartmouth game, my dad would call up the coach, and say, ‘I don’t care if we lose every other game, we have to win this game,’ ” Scott said.

One day, a special package arrived in the mail. It was the game ball from UNH’s victory over Dartmouth.

That was a good day for Buchanan, who supported the university ever since his graduation in 1940, serving on the board of trustees for many years.

In recognition of his contribution, UNH established the Creeley “Buck” Buchanan Distinguished Service Award in 1990, which is given to a UNH football player every year.

“He was one of the really truly honored football players,” said his friend Bob Rowe, a longtime Amherst state representative who attended many games with him.

Another friend, Ken Miller, recalled this year’s Sept. 20 game against the University of Albany as especially memorable. It was Legends Day, when the university recognizes its former football players.

At 91, Buchanan wasn’t able to get down to the field “so they announced his name, and he stood up and waved to the crowd, and everybody cheered,” Miller said.

Hockey was Buchanan’s other sports passion.

“He’d get up and yell each time they had a goal. It was fun, it really was fun,” Miller said.

If Buchanan was outspoken about his teams, he was no different about other issues. And because he was involved in so many aspects of town life during his 58 years in Amherst, there were plenty of opportunities for him to offer an opinion.

In 1985, Buchanan was honored with Amherst’s Citizen of the Year award.

“He was never a selectman, but he did just about everything else,” said his son.

Buchanan served as school moderator, held a state Senate seat for three terms, and even took on big roles in PTA plays when his children were in school.

Through it all, people took note of his strong opinions.

Town Moderator Bob Schaumann remembers when Buchanan, who had been school moderator years earlier, ran a meeting to plan for the new Souhegan High School.

“I remember his famous words, ‘Now let’s not screw this up.’ And then he proceeded to run the meeting. And sure enough, it wasn’t screwed up,” said Schaumann.

“He was not a person who was uncertain about what he thought,” said Bill Veillette, treasurer for the Amherst Historical Society, of which Buchanan was a member.

Buchanan was a World War II veteran, and later achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve.

After he graduated from college, he worked in the life insurance industry for 25 years.

He served as a Republican state senator from 1965-70, but resigned when he began a 10-year career at the Federal Housing Authority, believing the two roles could create a conflict of interest.

His tenure in the Senate was not without controversy, and his son Scott remembers how his father handled criticism – unflinchingly.

“He introduced the room and meals tax in New Hampshire, which is geared more toward tourists, wealthier people, and going out to eat, which he always considered to be a luxury,” said Scott. “He knew he had to be realistic, that New Hampshire needed some kind of tax income.”

When a local business owner called him angrily over the new tax, young Scott heard his father react just as forcefully.

“He was very brutally honest, very blunt, and in spite of that, he won friendships. It’s amazing the commitment of friendship, the feelings people had for him, even though he might have insulted them sometimes with his frankness.”

“One of his real qualities was loyalty,” said Rowe. “When any of his friends was housebound or sick, he would always visit them. He would go out of his way to visit them.”